Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.



Alfredo Catalani: La Falce
04 Jan 2006


Although nothing is mentioned on the cover of the CD, I think this is the first official recording of the opera even if there are some pirates doing the rounds of the collectors (my copy is a Buenos Aires pirate). So this is not an unimportant issue of Catalani’s first opera.

Alfredo Catalani: La Falce

Paola Romano, Carlo Torriani, Orchestra dell’Opera Ucraina di Dniepropetrovsk, Silvano Frontalini (cond.).

Bongiovanni GB 2394-2 [CD]


It has been Giancarlo Bongiovanni’s custom for several recordings to employ cheap orchestras (following the Naxos trend) for whom this is a kind of calling card and to give the title roles to experienced singers who never made headlines but carve out existences in small provincial theatres in Europe. There is nothing wrong with that method, as otherwise it would be financially impossible to bring to the market the many rarities Bongiovanni issues.

The orchestra is certainly not substandard and plays well under maestro Frontalini. Dnjepropetrovsk may be a hideous place to live; but the city has one million inhabitants and a good opera house. The quality of the orchestra is important in this opera as it starts out with a prologo longer than 12 minutes in an opera that only has thirty minutes more to go. The piece is exactly what the name says: a prologue that is a symphonic poem that tells us all what has happened beforehand : an attack on a caravan led by Muhammed ibn Abdullah (yes, the founder himself) that fails because of a sandstorm and the intervention of angels. The battle leaves the heroine all alone in the world as her family is wiped out. The tenor appears wearing a scythe (i.e., la Falce) but he is not a messenger of death but of life. The girl and the boy fall in love and they follow the victorious caravan starting their new life together.

At the time, the 21-year old Catalani knew the earlier operas of Wagner and, during a stay in Paris, he had heard some of the effects the older Massenet used (though that composer’s first oriental opera – Le Roi de Lahore – premièred two years after La Falce). Catalani’s use of the orchestra is refined and far from the big guitar of some of his contemporaries. He never was a great tune-smith though his best known opera, La Wally, has one big hit. Nonetheless he employs mostly melodic recitatives changing into arioso without formal beginnings or endings in the traditional aria-style. Though the tenor has more declamatory lines than the more lyrical ones of the soprano, their voices nicely join together from time to time in the honoured Italian way. It may be a youthful piece; but it is one that grows on you with repeated hearings.

After a career of twenty years with many performances of Abigaile and Turandot, soprano Paola Romano has a serviceable but somewhat shrill voice without a distinct timbre. Tenor Carlo Torriani is a throwback to the fifties when these kind of big booming voices with a heavy vibrato were still in abundant supply in Italy: not too refined, reminding one of Giuseppe Giacomini, but still exciting for those like myself who like ringing tenor singing.

In short, an interesting CD and a must for all collectors of operas by Verdi’s successors.

Jan Neckers

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):